Alyson Leas

Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Kim Porter


This thesis serves to examine the continued decline of population in rural North Dakota. In the face of a large oil boom in the state's western third, agricultural communities in the central third of the state continue to struggle. Through an examination of United States Department of Agriculture yearly agricultural censuses, experiment station notes, personal correspondence, local histories, and the United States decennial census from the first fifty years of the twentieth century, information regarding the rise and fall of communities in northern Towner County, North Dakota, has been tabulated. Results show that the better agriculture did in terms of production and profitability via mechanization, farm growth, and scientific advances the worse impact it had on the rural community in terms of farm and population loss. Population of laborers and small farmers were replaced by machines and large farms, while profits and mobility allowed rural citizens to expand their consumer spheres. Communities in Towner County, North Dakota, had fallen prey to Elwyn Robinson's "Too Much Mistake," creating their own decline.